How much money is enough? It’s a question posed of John Paul Getty by his security consultant, Fletcher Chase. More than this, came the answer from the man who was assessed to be the richest in the world at the time.
All The Money In The World harks back to the early 1970s when such wealth was neither so commonplace as it seems today nor as conspicuous. Getty was fabulously wealthy, though the ‘fabulous’ seemed an odd addition when it appeared to bring as much pain and destruction as joy and relief. The incident at the heart of the film, the kidnap of Getty’s grandson Paul and his eventual mutilation (his ear was cut off) before release, was an event I remember well as a teen. What I didn’t grasp then – I’m not sure it was entirely clear to the public anyway – was Getty’s reluctance to help and his insistence on treating the kidnap like any other business deal.
As the story is based on a true story, we know the outcome but, even so, the tension ebbs and flows across the months of the captivity of the young, terrified Paul Getty, while his grandfather hums and has and tries to use every twist and turn as a negotiating position.
At the centre is a triangle of contrasting personalities: Getty, the aesthete and collector divorced from a person connection with those around him, happier drooling over an antique as engaging with people; Abigail Getty, Paul’s mum and Getty’s daughter in law who is frankly disinterested in the opulence and only wants to get her son back but is in the hands of many others in order to effect such a release while pilloried by a press who believe her rich but refusing to pay; and Fletcher Chase an expert negotiator who acts as a go-between between the kidnappers as well as Gail Getty and the Getty hierachy.
The film packs a punch, its portrayal of the time spot on – watching the opening scenes in Rome, 1973, the clothes took me straight back to that time – and the acting faultless. High praise goes to Michelle Williams and Mark Walhberg who play Gail and Fletcher respectively. But the star is Christopher Plummer, one octogenarian playing another beautifully. I understand Kevin Spacey was already filming this when the various sex scandals broke and he was removed to be replaced by Plummer. Whatever the rights of that, it’s a peachy role and one Plummer embraces with elan. Even Getty’s eventual death, as a dribbling stroke victim, is a triumph of its kind. If ever there was an Oscar in waiting, it is for him.
This was a small film, one without as much hype as some and with a plot that wasn’t an obvious one to carry two hours of film but the quality rung out of the script and the actors by Ridley Scott makes this, if not his finest effort, then in the top three.
See it. And don’t worry about the ice cream, it’s that good.